Is Cocopa Nightmare Over?

first_imgAs the management of Cocopa Plantation completes the final payoff of aggrieved workers under the management of the Nimba Rubber Incorporated (NRI), which is almost at the point of closing, many are wondering whether the nightmare at the plantation is finally over.On Thursday, December 1, the Managing Director of Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and also Chief Executive Officer of NRI, Harrison Karnwea, told reporters in Ganta that the payoff process at the plantation was almost over.He said that upon the completion of the payoff, the company will begin the process of recruiting so as to immediately begin work at the deserted plantation.“We are completing the payoff exercise and immediately after the exercise we will start with the process of recruiting a minimum size of workforce to begin work,” he said.Mr. Karnwea in a happy mood said the company will take care of all the damages at the plantation, upon resumption of work. “When I first took in charge of the plantation in the ‘90s, nothing was there to refer to as an office or place to dwell and we were able to restore everything that was looted from the concession.”While the Cocopa Plantation is being revived, there are no facilities in operation; neither schools nor medical facilities, are open at present. Nearly all the facilities at the plantation were looted or vandalized by angry workers, which rendered the concession area a ghost town.But, Mr. Karnwea assured the public that everything will be restored as soon as the recruitment exercise is over, and said school will resume by next academic year.The Cocopa nightmare began in March this year, when the workers refused to work and started blocking roads in demand of salaries and other benefits.The trouble continued until October when the Government of Liberia deployed armed police at the plantation to calm down the situation, after all the facilities had been looted or vandalized by either the aggrieved workers or unidntified persons. The Cocopa Plantation had about 1200 employees, 400 of which were tappers, while the majority worked in other departments which the management could not maintain, especially as rubber prices fell.Mr. Karnwea said the money to pay off the employees was provided by the present management, the NRI and added that the company will be recruiting about 430 persons, including staff and tappers and skilled workers, until things can improve.However, another problem: those that were retired are yet to be settled according to their pension. But Mr. Karnwea said it will be taken care of by the government; for now, they are concentrating on workers. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Greek mechanic realized American dream

first_imgHe was 4 years old in 1944, sitting with his five older brothers and sisters as their mother gave them some terrible news. Their father, fighting in World War II, had been killed in action. Six years later, his mom also died, leaving Tony to be raised by his older siblings. “We all worked hard on that farm, so there wasn’t much time for school. I never did make it to high school.” At 14, he moved to Athens to work in a garage as a mechanic’s apprentice – learning his trade on taxis, buses and trucks because there weren’t that many private cars in the 1950s. “I enlisted in the navy at 21, and when I was discharged in 1963, I returned to Athens to open my own garage,” Tony said. And there he stayed for four years until the American dream came calling. Volkswagen’s “Beetle mania” was exploding in the United States, and there weren’t enough mechanics who knew how to work on the strange little cars that looked like a bug. “VW offered me a job in America, and I figured, `Why not?’ I was young and single. I thought I’d go there and stay a few years,” Tony said with a laugh. The owner of Tony’s Auto Repair in Burbank put down his mechanic’s tools and wiped his hands on a work rag Thursday morning. The car repairs could wait. For now, it was time for Tony Papanikolaou to say thanks. He came to this country 40 years ago with nothing. He retires next week with everything – a beautiful family and a good life. “If you want to meet the American dream, you’re looking at him,” the 66-year-old mechanic said, turning the clock back more than six decades to a little farm just outside Tripoli in Greece. Thirty-seven years later – 31 of them married to his wife, Helen – Tony’s getting ready to retire next week after selling his business. The man who never made it to high school has put four children through college working on those funny little cars that look like bugs. “I always kid Tony that I put his kids through school, and now I’m going to be paying for his retirement, too,” said Steve Urbanovich, one of Tony’s longtime customers who owns a 1966 VW Beetle he calls Peanut. “In the 41 years I’ve owned Peanut, Tony’s the only guy I’ve let touch her. I don’t know what I’m going to do now. You can’t replace the skills of a mechanic like Tony.” When his children look at what their father has accomplished in that repair shop on Victory Boulevard, they say they feel pride and gratitude. “Our dad came here with nothing but worked hard to bring his brothers and sisters to this country, one at a time,” says daughter Aphrodite, who graduated from the University of Southern California and is now a school finance director. “He sent his four children through college without ever having a chance to go to high school himself. He’s given everyone in his family a great life – working hard in that auto repair shop,” she said. And now before he leaves, Tony just wanted to take a minute to thank all of his longtime customers and the country that gave him a chance 40 years ago. If you want to meet the American dream, you’re looking at him. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. dennis.mccarthy@dailynews.com (818) 713-3749160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img